Ukraine begins trial against alleged Russian troops | News | DW | 29.09.2015
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Ukraine begins trial against alleged Russian troops

Ukraine has opened its trial against two alleged Russian soldiers accused of fighting alongside separatist forces. Government forces captured the men in May.

On Tuesday, Ukraine's government opened its trial against two men accused of being active-duty Russian servicemen when they were captured fighting alongside separatist forces in the country's east in May. Russian officials vigorously deny that the country has troops in Ukraine and have called the men "former soldiers." However, at the time of the men's capture, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his country was in a "real war" with Russia.

The men's defense attorney says they face charges of terrorism and waging an "aggressive war" against Ukraine.

Details shared with the press by government officials in May suggested that the soldiers were captured in a gunfight in the Luhansk province. Military spokesman Vladislav Seleznev said the clash had occurred between "about 14" Russian soldiers and members of Ukraine's 92nd brigade, one of whom died in the battle.

'Confession' key to case

In a taped interrogation, the men said they entered Ukraine as part of a 200-member reconnaissance unit from Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate. With the Kremlin rejecting allegations of involvement in Ukraine's conflict, Seleznev told French news agency AFP at the time that "it is very important to present to the world Russian soldiers who supposedly do not exist on our land."

Ukraine, EU countries and the United States have accused Russia of supporting separatists and providing them with heavy artillery and weapons. Kremlin officials deny the charges.

Russia has put a member of Ukraine's military on trial. Nadia Savchenko stands accused of directing artillery to kill Russian journalists operating in eastern Ukraine. Prosecutors say she crossed the border illegally by posing as a refugee, but Ukrainian officials say she was abducted by separatists and handed over to Russia.

Savchenko served in Iraq and in Ukraine as a helicopter pilot. She has been in detention for over a year and spent more than 80 days on hunger strike in custody. Outside the court last week her sister, Vera, told DW that Savchenko was now "tired of Russia."

On Monday, a series of events were held in several countries as part of "Free Savchenko Day."

Last week, separatists expelled UN humanitarian workers from territories they control. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the situation in Ukraine was fragile.

mkg/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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